The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Devil's in the Details

Glass-Weaver's picture

Devil's in the Details

I'm pretty new to both sourdough baking and TFL, but I was asked for my recipe, so here we go...


This is actually a variation of the Times No-Knead, which I got from Eric at Breadtopia.  However, and here's the "Devil's in the Details" moment, I didn't have what I would call success with that recipe.  So, I knocked the water from 12 to 11 ounces, and changed the way I'm handling the dough and baking, and Voila', good bread!


Glass-Weaver Sourdough

80 grams ripe 100% starter

11 ounces iced water

5 ounces whole wheat bread flour (I'm using Trader Joe's White Whole Wheat)

11 ounces bread flour (I'm using Power Flour by Pendleton Mills -- highly recommended)

1 1/2 tsp. plain salt

Mix until moistened, then knead about 30 strokes by hand in the bowl, spray-oil container, put dough in container, spray-oil top, cover, leave at cool room temp overnight.  In the morning, or perhaps closer to noon, when dough has doubled pat out on a wet cutting board, deflating large bubbles only, and stretch-n-fold, put back in container until doubled again, repeat deflating/stretch-n-fold two more time, for a total of three sets.  Then pat dough out on wet cutting board, stretch-n-fold, ending with the dough in a ball.  Allow to rest a couple minutes while preparing a sheet of parchment with a sprinkling of semolina.  Form the loaf by holding in both hands and tucking the skin under until the top is taut, paying attention to kind of "sealing" the gathering point at the bottom.  Then flip the ball over into the left palm and pull the gathering point up into a kind of "stem" about 2" high.  Give the stem a quarter-turn and then flip the dough ball back to right-side-up and sit it down on the parchment, trying to keep the "stem" in the center-bottom.  This helps the loaf climb higher and spread less.  Put an inverted mixing bowl over the loaf to keep it moist and allow to rise until it springs back slowly from a poke with a wet finger.


In the mean time, when it's about half an hour until baking time, preheat oven to 500 degrees and put water in the steamer.  Yeah, steamer, but more about that later.  When the oven is up to temp, slash loaf, use a peel to put the loaf, parchment and all, onto Fibrament baking stone, cover with terracotta pot and inject 5 seconds of steam, cover hole in pot.  Reduce temperature to 450 degrees, bake 15 minutes, remove pot, bake 15 more minutes.  Pull out with peel, invert loaf into pot-holder-protected palm and pull parchment off bottom, cool on rack.


I got the idea for using the steamer and pot from several different threads here on TFL, and put together my own version.  It so happened I already have a steamer, intended for either steam-cleaning or for pressing clothes ($129 from Costco, a whole bucket of attachments, used it twice, grrr.)  As you can imagine I was thrilled to have a use for the steamer, so I worked hard at making a home-made "cloche".  The pot was easy, but I wanted a way to handle it without getting burned, and I wanted to be able to inject steam, trap the steam and divert the steam off the raw dough.  The handle I came up with is made from 1/16" TIG welding rod (which is stainless steel) and two food can tops removed with a side-cutting can opener, and some nuts and bolts.  Hopefully you can see from the photos how I did it.  Oh, the most expensive part of the project was buying a drill bit for tile (about $9.00).  The cover for the hole just sits loose on top and is shifted to open and closed positions with a potholder.  Seems to work fine.


I know some people are nervous about using pots that aren't intended for food, but the pot never touches the bread, and lead, which is what I think people are worried about, is used in glazes, not the clay itself, as far as I know.

The handle was made by wrapping the piece of welding rod around a 1/4" steel tube (I needed help for this, hard to hold onto), a loop was formed in each end to go around the bolt.  Then, a curved piece of rod was passed through the spiral and cut off, more loops in the ends were formed (crudely, with pliers.)  It was a struggle to get everything lined up between the washers and get the bolts tightened down, but I did it myself.

The "diverter", which is a can top, is about 3/4" below the hole in the pot.  This allows the steam to enter, but not hit the dough directly.  The space between the pot and the diverter is maintained with nuts and lock washers on the long bolts.


The steam makes a lovely shining crust, chewy and crisp.  I knocked down the water to 11 ounces because I wanted smaller holes in the crumb.  (I know, that's not what lots of people here are after, but I like the sandwich fillings to stay in the middle!) 


You'll notice that everything I've mentioned was learned and gathered from posts here on TFL.  Thanks to all the great bakers who are so happy to teach and share.  So far, this bread is my one-note tune, but I hope to be expanding my repertoire soon.


Terri (Glass-Weaver)







sheffield's picture
sheffield (not verified)

Thank you for the recipe and your method for steaming the bread.  I'll have to get a pot and try what you've done.  Very ingenious!  I'll let you  know how it turns out.  Hope my bread comes out as good looking as yours.

siuflower's picture

What is the size of the pot and the bottom dish?  



summerbaker's picture

Beautiful bread and clever technique.  I wish that my SD loves would come out looking so lovely!


Glass-Weaver's picture

The pot is 13" diameter, 6" high, outside measurements.  There isn't a bottom dish, as such.  I have a Fibrament baking stone (from  I used to have a Pampered Chef baking stone, but I cracked it when I preheated to 550 one time, and then hit it with the live steam.  Woops.  Oh well, I wanted an excuse to get a better stone anyway.

Thanks for the nice feedback on the bread.  The steam makes all the difference in that pretty shiny crust, also, I get better color since I started using iced water to start the dough.

avatrx1's picture

I'm impressed.  You seem alot like me, always "bar-rigging" things together.  Yours was a really good idea.l  I had thought about making a bread "cover" also using a clay pot, but had thought about using a cabinet handle?  Drillling thru the clay was a concern.  I thought I"d crack it and then have to throw it in my stash of "drain tiles for the bottom of planters" pile.

The other option I had considered was one of those trays that match the pots?  I wonder if you put parchment paper on them and baked the bread that way, if that might work - cover for the first 25 minutes, then remove?

My issue has always been my dough spreads if not confined.  Would kneading a little more help to alleviate that?  I do kinda like the bigger holes, but I thought yours looked great!

I have to make bread that looks "normal" according to hubbies standards.  He's one of those who doesn't like my "freshly ground" coffee.  He thinks the best stuff comes from a can.  I've been know to grind coffee and then add it to the can at which point he can't tell the difference, but with bread - he can pretty much tell...:-)  He seems to think that homemade bread is good for toast and eating just plain with butter, but he has NEVER made a sandwich with it.  Go figure!


Soundman's picture

Beautiful looking bread, Terri!

If I recall correctly (I've never done no-knead) it's a pretty wet formula, so decreasing the water probably only brings it down toward a more usual hydration. Your contraption works great, with beautiful crust and crumb. Keep showing us the fantastic pix as well!


SallyBR's picture

Absolutely AWESOME!!!!!!!


loved the way you designed the clay thing, and your photos are spectacular!

Glass-Weaver's picture

Thanks David and Sally!


You're right, drilling the holes for the handles is tricky.  Use a Carbide Tipped Drill Bit, "best for glass, tile and ceramics".  The largest diameter I could get was 1/8", which meant I had to go into stainless for nuts and bolts, which was fine.  The trick with drilling the pots is to keep the area wet by pooling a little water on the clay, and then use very light pressure.  Each hole required several minutes to drill...just be patient.

I also considered using a cabinet handle but I wanted enough clearance for my steamer nozzle.  As it turns out, the cabinet handle would have been fine, and a lot less bother.

Your idea for using a saucer as a stone would work.  I would use parchment, as you mentioned.  However, it'll be a bit trickier to slide the proofed loaf off the peel because the edge of the saucer will be in your way.  I don't know about the timing you mentioned, I only keep the cover on for 15 minutes, and then uncovered another 15 minutes.  Be sure to start the terracotta, whether a cover or a saucer, in a cold oven and preheat thoroughly before baking.

I used to have the same problem you mentioned about dough spreading until I started kneading and stretch/folding.  Reread my narrative above to see how I'm doing it now.  I was able to make my loaves twice as high just by changing the manipulation.  It's surprising how a very minimal amount of working the dough makes such a difference.  (Not to say I'm done learning by any means.)

I sympathize with your husband-feeding issues.  Never mess with a man and his sandwiches...just make your own the way you like them and let him watch you enjoy while he eats his store bread in peace.  I can understand people who focus on fillings, and ignore the bread as simple background architecture, but they sure are missing out!


avatrx1's picture

I'm going to find a pot today and give your method a try.  As for drilling the holes?  I guess it can't be much harder (now that I think of it) than drilling thru those glass blocks in order to make the block lights.  We did that last Christmas.  We went online to a place called Harbor Freight and ordered a glass bit.  My hubby did the drilling on his drill press using a little water.  You can get larger size bits thru them.  We couldn't find any locally but they seemed to have everything and they were very inexpensive - unlike Menard's or Home Depot or the hardware store.  Less than $5 if I remember correctly.  the glass block lights came out great and we used a 1/2" bit for those.  I could research it out in my records if anyone were interested.

Your bread looks great.  I'll surely read the post on dough handling. 

I also have one of those steamer gizzies.  I also only used it a couple of times.  I'd thought about putting in on EBAY.  I'm still not clear about how you used it to inject steam?  You injected the steam and then sealed it in?  Hmmmm.........

thanks again for the recipe and the great photos!